Discovery upfront: shark diving, space travel, dating and dog shows on tap

Shark diving, dog handling, a trip to the International Space Station and romance are part of the wide variety of content Discovery Inc. has unveiled for its platforms this week. Boat ...
May 18, 2021

Shark diving, dog handling, a trip to the International Space Station and romance are part of the wide variety of content Discovery Inc. has unveiled for its platforms this week.

Boat Rocker Studios and its subsidiary, Matador Content, and Boomtown Content are behind an ambitious competition series that gives participants the opportunity to travel into space and live aboard the International Space Station.

The eight-part Who Wants to Be An Astronaut? (w/t) will see competitors engaging in extreme challenges and vying for an official spot aboard an upcoming mission managed by Houston-based Axiom Space, which is building the world’s first commercial space station and is, according to Discovery, “at the forefront of the new model of private space travel.” The first fully private mission to the ISS from Axiom is slated for no earlier than January of 2022. The mission for this series is expected to occur after that.

“This is an incredibly exciting time for space storytelling that gives us an opportunity to see the Earth from a vantage point few have ever experienced,” said Scott Lewers, executive vice president of multi-platform programming, factual & head of content, Science, in a statement.

Flagship brand Discovery Channel has long been a go-to destination for programming around sharks, due to Shark Week each summer. The network is expanding on this kind of programming now, with Shark Academy, a series that will follow eight people over six weeks as they compete against one another for a crew spot on shark scientist Riley Elliott’s next expedition.

Shark Academy will be available across Discovery’s platforms. The series was produced for Discovery by Double Act. Elliott and Alastair Cook serve as executive producers, and Jo Locke is the showrunner. For Discovery, Keith Hoffman is executive producer and Sarah Russell is supervising producer.

“We’ll watch as top marine biologist and Shark Week favorite Dr. Riley Elliott takes aspiring researchers to the middle of the ocean to find out if they have what it takes to accompany him as a member of his team on his next big shark expedition,” said Amy Introcaso-Davis, executive vice president, factual programming, Discovery.

Moving from water to land, the new coming-of-age competition series The Mighty Underdogs offers a glimpse into junior dog shows.

The series will see preteen and teen handlers compete among thousands for one of the limited spots at the Westminster Dog Show. The series is centered around world-renowned coach Jody Davidson who has a long record of guiding young handlers to becoming champions. The Mighty Underdogs will be available across Discovery platforms next year.

“The competitive world of junior dog handlers attracts idiosyncratic, entertaining and passionate personalities,” Introcaso-Davis said. “This series illustrates how these talented kids not only learn how to win but find a place in the world that they can call their own.”

Catalina Content is producing The Mighty Underdogs for Discovery. Jeff Collins and Brenda Coston serve as executive producers for Catalina Content. From Discovery, Keith Hoffman is executive producer and Sarah Russell is supervising producer.

Discovery’s programming is also expanding to include three upcoming dating series that will each be available across the network’s platforms later this year.

First is Naked and Afraid of Love, a romantic extension of Discovery survival hit Naked and Afraid. The show takes 16 strangers and asks them to try and find true love while working together to survive the elements on an island paradise. The series is produced for Discovery by Renegade 83 with David Garfinkle, Jay Renfroe and Jay Bienstock serving as executive producers. From Discovery, Michael Gara is also executive producer and Paola Espinosa is associate producer.

In Mating Season, eligible men and women look to the animal kingdom for cues on courtship and dating. The series sees animalistic challenges such as limited speaking opportunities and choreographing mating rituals used as ways for people to find potential mates. Once again, Boat Rocker Studios is producing Mating Season for Discovery through Matador Content. Todd Lubin, Jay Peterson, Sam Brown and Gretchen Morning each serve as executive producer, with Greg Wolf also acting as producer.

Finally, in Mountain Love, five people from cities and suburbs decide to move in with their long-distance partners who live far off the grid in remote corners of the United States, to see if their relationships will survive. Mountain Love was produced by Sharp Entertainment for Discovery. Matt Sharp, Dan Adler, Doug Fitch, Erin Wanner and Keith Hoffman serve as executive producers, with Sarah Russell as supervising producer.

“We’ve documented people all over the world doing the most extreme things – whether it’s risking their lives out at sea, street racing or traveling to space – but nothing better illustrates what it truly means to be human than our quest for love,” said Nancy Daniels, chief brand officer, Discovery & factual. “We are combining core elements of the Discovery brand with the complexities of finding love and companionship, and the results will both thrill and tug at the heartstrings.”

On the lifestyle front, HGTV is prepping a home reno series featuring rapper and producer Lil Jon as well as DIY Network-featured designer and builder Anitra Mecadon. Lil Jon Wants to Do What? will see the pair undertake seemingly impossible home renovation projects. The show is slated for this summer.

“We are pushing our content strategy forward with the kind of unexpected shows and talent that will surprise and excite viewers across the audience spectrum,” said Jane Latman, president, HGTV, in a statement.

Meanwhile, exclusive content was also announced for streaming service Discovery+.

Chasing Ghislaine seeks to dig deeper into the alleged crimes and secrets of Ghislaine Maxwell, the accused accomplice of Jeffrey Epstein. Maxwell was charged with crimes of enticement of minors and sex trafficking of underage girls, and goes to trial in November.

The series is based on more than 30 original filmed interviews. It comes from Blackfin along with executive producer and best-selling author James Patterson, and New York Times best-selling author and journalist Vicky Ward.

Along with the series, Chasing Ghislaine will be the title of an accompanying Audible original podcast featuring archived audio recordings with Epstein and others in his circle.

Both the podcast and the Discovery+ series will be available later this year.

Also on the way is The House My Wedding Bought, which will be available to stream on Discovery+ beginning June 16.

In this series, real estate expert Breegan Jane helps engaged couples on a budget both pay for a dream wedding and put a down payment on a house. Jane will tour wedding venues and new homes with the couples to help them decide the smartest way to divide their budget.

(With files from Barry Walsh)

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